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Archive for April, 2010

Credit Hire – A necessary evil or just evil?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Frequently after a motor accident there is one driver who is completely blameless and another who must accept responsibility for the accident they have caused and as such according to the law of the land, must also compensate the other driver for the losses they incur.  This compensation is usually handled by the at fault driver’s insurance company.

One of the big areas of claim now relates to the hire of a replacement vehicle while the non fault driver’s car is off the road being repaired or while they await receipt of the total loss cheque for their vehicle.

The non fault driver will frequently be introduced to a credit hire firm by their insurer, broker or body shop.  That firm will usually tell them that they can hire an equivalent car to their own for as long as they need at no cost to themselves as all the charges will be reclaimed from the at fault driver’s insurance.

A credit hire firm however is not a usual car hire company.  As the name suggests, their vehicles are hired out and the charges are on a credit basis allowing them to be recovered from the at fault driver’s insurance before payment is required.  It is generally accepted that the cost of anything purchased using credit rather than cash is higher and this is usually the case with credit hire vehicles.

The use of credit hire means that everyday, insurers are receiving claims for credit car hire totalling many thousands of pounds which are much higher than if the vehicles had been hired on a cash or spot hire basis.

There is case law that basically states that an innocent driver is only allowed to recover the spot hire rates unless they can prove that they had no alternative other than to approach a more expensive credit hire company.  This is where credit hire comes into its own and can provide a valuable, if not expensive, service to innocent drivers.

Vehicle repairs can take some time, which can mean that the cost of hiring alternative transport, even from a cheaper spot hire firm, could be prohibitive to many people.  The legal term for this is that the hirer is impecunious.  This leaves them with no option, but to resort to credit hire or do without a vehicle which might be essential for their daily life.

Credit hire firms also generally have a more generous acceptance criteria than standard hire firms, which means they can often hire to young / older drivers or convicted drivers which other hire firms would not be able to accommodate.  Again these drivers have no option but to resort to credit hire or forgo a vehicle whilst theirs is off the road.

Geoden Agency can assist credit hire firms in showing that their client had no option but resort to the use of credit hire through their claimant credit hire investigation services.  These include taking a statement from the Claimant setting out their financial position or surveying the spot hire market to show lack of available alternatives to the Claimant.

Geoden Agency can also help motor insurers and defendant solicitors when faced with a credit hire claim.  Their defendant credit hire claims investigations include services such as spot hire rates investigations and status reports on claimants to minimise the risk of an impecuniosity defence.

Does Google Streetview mean the death of the locus report?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

It was recently suggested to me that the 95% coverage of the country claimed by Google Streetview was going to finish off the need to supply “sketch plan and photographs” in the legal agency field.  It may look like it but I must beg to differ.

I cannot recall how many of these locus jobs I have done over the years but each one has been different and the requirements of the instructing office have been equally varied.  Some locations seem to generate accidents so we have been back to the same location more than once but each visit has had a new set of requirements.

We are often asked to check traffic patterns at specific times of day and how the street environment is “used” by the various types of traffic and pedestrians.  I can recall more than one occasion where I have been sitting in my car at an accident scene waiting for the sun to rise in order to check visibility and the effect of dazzle on motorists.  The many elements needing to be checked appear to be infinite in their variety and combinations.

So, are the days of standing at the roadside clipboard and camera in hand recording relevant data gone forever?  I don’t think so.  It is obvious that some people are introducing downloaded prints of Streetview scenes into the courts but this is a practice which is almost certainly going to come back and bite those individuals on their nether regions.

Let’s have a look at Streetview and its copyright images and see why this could all go horribly wrong.  There are lots of lovely colour pictures easily accessible for free and not involving much effort – sounds great doesn’t it?  Just look at those lively street scenes, well not always lively as many have been taken on a Sunday morning with hardly any traffic around but at least you can see the street markings.  Well, yes, sometimes but lower screen material is often distorted but we can live with that surely, unless of course you want to know the height of the kerb or the quality of that road repair or the condition of the street furniture or anything else that isn’t visible from about 3 metres up in the air.  We’ll ignore the screen joins as well and try and guess at any slopes so that’s probably not too bad.  The number plate obscuring software also seems to work on some road name plates.

Mentioning the camera position brings me to another problem.  Most of the accidents we get to deal with are at junctions and the usual need is for data on the visibility for emerging drivers.  This is easily checked by an investigator on the scene but virtually impossible on Streetview where the picture has been taken from the carriageway by a camera mounted on a tall pole – not exactly what the average motorist is going to see is it?  A photographer can also see and record some worn street markings which do not always show up on Streetview.

Our main office is based in Mid Sussex and it appears that our Streetview pictures are amongst the most recent so let’s have a look at them.  Firstly there’s my Citroen parked outside the office (car written off in late 2009), then to the local petrol station where a bargain can be had with fuel at 97p a litre, never mind let’s go past the busy off-licence (shut down months ago) into town and go along the main street.  There’s the carpet store (also closed months ago) and the pub (not only closed but demolished as well).  Turning the other way we can follow the main road unblemished by the current road markings and parking areas.  By now you probably get the general idea and the situation elsewhere is even worse – go into London and see the busy Woolworth’s stores – it’s like having your own little time machine.

If you knew exactly when the pictures were taken it might not be so bad but this is not shown and I hardly think that Google will be overly keen on sending their cameraman to court to verify his photography.  Furthermore how are you going to get this material into court as evidence?  If the views are printed off (copyright issues?) they can easily be tampered with so do you have numerous monitors set up in court so that all parties can see the same screen view live from the internet at the same moment?  Personally I cannot see it happening.

The whole concept of using Streetview as a locus photography tool seems a bit of a car crash to me which is why I am not too worried.  We are called in to help clear up the aftermath of crashes every day and I guess that being asked to sort things out after people have tried to take short-cuts with Streetview will just be another source of business.

Geoden Agency has for over 20 years prepared profession locus reports and photographs, these include a personal visit to the location and take into consideration the relevant and often unique features of the road layout / local environment at that point.

Famous Anniversaries, an occasional series – No.27 Alf Boons

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Sadly today (1st April 2010) there will be few people celebrating the centenary of the birth of one of the insurance world’s greatest innovators, Alf Boons, who was believed to be the creator of the “no claims discount”.  Alf was born “Alphonse” in Paris to French parents, ironically bearing the surname Bonusse, although they anglicised their name when they moved to Mucking in Essex a few years later.  As a child growing up in Essex the young Bonusse soon decided that he was Alf and not Alphonse thus avoiding numerous beatings from his fun-loving schoolmates.

When Alf left school he tried several jobs until he found his way into insurance and showed a flair for the business.  His abilities enabled him to reach a point here he became chief underwriter for one of the Lloyds syndicates and it is believed that the “NCD” was one of his marketing ploys during that period.  Certainly Alf made no attempts to deny the story.

He retired early after a disastrous accident involving a tea trolley* in the early 60s and he and his wife, former socialite Lavinia Smallpiece, settled down in the picturesque village of Basingstoke.  During this time, Alf’s creative streak did not leave him and there are stories of his invention of the instant self-portrait camera.  Sadly, no examples of this clever device, known as the Hashlee, are in existence after an incident in which Alf is believed to have sent pictures of himself to a pretty neighbour.  Lavinia is said to have smashed the camera over Alf’s head and then destroyed the plans at which point Alf lost interest (and consciousness).

A few months after the unfortunate Hashlee incident the Boons decided to move and chose to go to France, Alf’s birthplace.  Alf was still a wealthy man and the couple bought an old mansion on the Seine where Alf could practise his angling and the house was re-named “Poisson d’Avril”.  For many years Alf was a common sight wandering the area and practising his angling in secluded pools.

Tragically Alf died in 1982 as a result of hypothermia caused by frequent exposure to the elements whilst angling.  He was buried in the churchyard of the 13th century church of Saint Avril Premier in the nearby village of Tirer les Jambes.  A small plaque now adorns the front of the last home of Alphonse Bonusse.

* Tea trolley – a means by which staff could be supplied with refreshments at their desk.  The trolleys were often overloaded leading to many accidents in which staff sustained injuries from luke warm tea  inundation and wagon wheel schrapnel.